In recent days, both the U.S. and China have threatened to impose $50 billion in tariffs on the other’s products. As the U.S. imports over $500 billion worth of products from China, the proposed tariffs would have a significant impact on our economy, as well as the economies of China and other nations. This lesson will provide students with an understanding of the ongoing trade conflict. It will encourage them to consider the implications of a potential trade war in a globalized economy and allow them to develop an understanding of the ways in which our national stance on international trade has evolved over the last two centuries.
- Students will understand the historical context of the ongoing trade conflict between the U.S. and China.
- Students will examine the circumstances that led to the creation of the Embargo Act of 1807 and analyze how American attitudes toward protectionism have changed over time.
- Handout A: International Trade
- Handout B: Trade war with China: What you need to know
- Handout C: International Trade Discussion Questions
- Handout D: Embargo Act Discussion Questions
Prior to participating in the activity, students should read Handout A: International Trade. Due to the length of the essay, the handout should be read outside of class.
Activity: 20 minutes
President Trump recently stated his intention to impose $50 billion in tariffs on imports from China. Soon afterward, the Chinese government responded by threatening to impose $50 billion in tariffs on various American imports. As the possibility of a trade war with China looms on the horizon, it is important to understand the history of such conflicts in the past to better appreciate the implications that could result.
Two centuries ago, another international trade conflict had a significant effect on our young economy. President Jefferson signed the Embargo Act of 1807 into law as war raged in Europe. While the act, which banned all international trade with the U.S., was intended to show warring nations, particularly France and Great Britain, that trade with our neutral nation was essential, it failed to achieve its goal and ultimately crippled the American economy. Jefferson signed the repeal of the act in 1809.
Distribute Handout B: Trade war with China: What you need to know, Handout C: International Trade Discussion Questions, and Handout D: Embargo Act Discussion Questions
Once students have briefly reviewed Handout A and have read through Handout B, ask them to discuss (as the whole class or in small groups) the questions on both handouts: